Global Health Worker Shortages

According to this report from the Kaiser Network, the members of the G8 plan to “discuss setting numerical targets to address the global shortage of health workers, particularly in Africa and Asia” when they meet in Japan this July. 

The article goes on to state: “57 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, face severe health work force crises. Although sub-Saharan Africa has 11% of the world’s population and 24% of the global burden of disease, it has 3% of the world’s health workers. WHO estimates that filling the shortage in Africa would require training 1.5 million additional health workers, which would cost at least $7 billion annually (Tang, Kyodo News, 6/22).”

More on health care worker shortages:

This article about a January UN meeting on the issue discusses the strategy of “task shifting,” defined as “moving tasks to less specialized health workers to free up the time of doctors and nurses.”  According to the article, task shifting “maximizes the role of primary community-led health care, delivered closer to patients by an integrated team of health care professionals.”  According to WHO Assistant Director General Anders Nordström (quoted in the same article) “Doctors and nurses are essential but countries cannot afford to wait years while they complete their training.”

The advantage of task shifting is that many medical tasks can be performed perfectly well by someone with only a few months or a year of training.  If certain smaller tasks are covered by these people, more highly-trained doctors and nurses can focus on tasks that actually require higher levels of training.

This older article from Oxfam America (from August 2006), discusses some of the problems causing and related to the shortage of health care workers.

Here’s an interesting site from USAID’s Maximizing Access and Quality Initiative (MAQ).  This page is a list of session descriptions from an MAQ forum held in October 2007.  It also has links for viewing and/or downloading media from speaker presentations (mostly PowerPoint slideshows, some handouts).  Based on an admittedly brief skim-through, it looks like sessions 18, 21, 24, and 61 deal specifically with health care worker shortages.  Session 21 is called “Task shifting: making the most of the workers you have.”

Finally, here’s a site with links to a number of reports dealing with health worker shortages.  The site is run by the Capacity Project, an initiative sponsored by USAID.  (Note: I haven’t looked closely at this, and I don’t know that much about its background, so make of this site what you will.  But if you’re interested in a more technical analysis of this issue, it could be a good starting point.)

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~ by h.e.g. on June 23, 2008.

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